WHAT: Closing of the Barn
WHERE: Church and Granby
The chic bed-and-breakfasts, chain cafés and pubs moving into Toronto's gay village may have succeeded in doing what more than 30 years of outraged neighbours and cops couldn't: close down the Barn. Wrangling between the Barn's current owners and the executors of the will of its late owner, Janko Naglic, hasn't helped.
Sadly, 31 years after this gay ghetto landmark opened, the only remaining Barn experience one can hope for is watching the light play over the painted sunset in the massive cowboy mural on the side of 418 Church.
Founded by Slovenian entrepreneur and gay rights activist Naglic, the Barn complex (which included the Stables and Rawhide) were a gathering place at the southernmost point of the budding gay district.
"A lot of people in the community found it a gateway," says former patron Kevin Beaulieu. "It was never the fanciest place, but you could always rely on it at the end of the night."
Stories of backroom sex, dance parties till 4 am and drugs were the stuff of legend, as were the regular gatherings of Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity (TNTMEN) - all of it entertaining unless you happened to live nearby.
The complaints weren't always about noise. In the late 90s, police crackdowns over sex and liquor offences were met with mixed reactions, some applauding police intervention and others, like local councillor Kyle Rae, saying the Barn was helping by keeping the hardcore action out of public parks.
Still, the party carried on. Then, on October 27, 2004, police responding to a 911 call from Naglic's home found his lifeless body. He was the victim of murder by asphyxiation.
The Barn stayed open, but by then the gay village had changed drastically. It's heart was well north of the Barn, and fancy new chains started to lead the area's "de-ghettoization."
"The chains are coming in. There's less of a homegrown feeling," says Beaulieu.
Rae suggests the Barn's tombstone shouldn't be etched just yet. He says real estate types have told him a group of investors is interested in buying. As in the mural, however, the sun seems to have set on this barn.